We're just past the halfway point of the final stage of the Overwatch League, and NYXL still reigns. Still, three of the top five are from the West Coast, and only one team in the top seven (NYXL) is one of those mythical all-South Korean squads. The times they are a-changin'.
1. New York Excelsior
Movement: No movement
New York bled last week and won't be completing a perfect stage in the inaugural season of the Overwatch League. The Los Angeles Valiant took the NYXL to five games and narrowly clutched out the series, but it doesn't mean a whole lot for the team in the long run. Kim "Pine" Do-Hyeon was off his game against LA, along with the rest of the XL, but don't count on that to be a regular occurrence from this point on.
New York isn't putting forth its best and has lazily switched compositions at less-than-opportune times, making some matches appear closer than they should. The best is saved for the playoffs and until a team truly makes New York look silly, it will sit at the top.
2. Los Angeles Valiant
Well, the Valiant finally proved the Overwatch League pundits wrong, but not in an expected fashion. Los Angeles had an overwhelming soft schedule to start the stage and scuffled, but once it came to the Gladiators and Excelsior this week, the team kicked it into a higher gear. Coordination was in a similar place compared to past weeks, but the individual performances of Terence "SoOn" Tarlier and Brady "Agilities" Girardi truly elevated the Valiant in its victories.
With the Battle for LA and Excelsior out of the way, the Valiant are cruising into the playoffs with a four-game lead in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles has proved that it has all the talent, but consistency and improvement will be the name of the game going forward. The XL won't always be taking it easy.
3. Los Angeles Gladiators
This was probably the Gladiator's weakest week in Stage 4. An 0-3 loss to the Valiant and 3-1 win over the Fusion hurt its map differential and leave the team tied with Seoul Dynasty for the fifth playoff spot. The Glads showed a diverse range of strategies and consistently adapted to its opponents, but poor performances from star Lane "Surefour" Roberts hurt the team in its nail-biter against the Los Angeles Valiant.
Despite that, the Gladiators are still the third-best team in the league and have a good shot at making the league playoffs. The team's steady compositional decisions along with its solid talent ceiling mean this team is still a force to be reckoned with when all the cogs are working together.
4. Dallas Fuel
Unbelievable. The Dallas Fuel may have lost to the San Francisco Shock in a fairly close series, but they took care of the London Spitfire with ease. The Fuel's comfort in a slower-paced, sniper and tank-filled meta cannot be overstated, as it continues to shock the league. Dallas isn't putting together wins in a super intelligent or brute-force manner, but rather is playing carefree and surprising teams with on-the-fly ingenuity. Timo "Taimou" Kettunen looks particularly rejuvenated as he looks to be his old self on the Widowmaker once more.
Dallas is out of the playoffs and this recent performance doesn't matter in the context of the whole league, but the team and its fans have something to smile about. The Fuel have shown more consistency than the Shock and displayed a stronger meta understanding than the London Spitfire, as the stage comes to a close. Despite all the past adversity, Dallas' flame is burning blue.
5. San Francisco Shock
San Francisco defeated Dallas last week but still sits just a smidge below in the power rankings due to its general inconsistency. The Shock have all the talent and support to be a top team in the league, but small moments of micro mismanagement occasionally cost the team. Still, that shouldn't take away from the team's general excellence and strategic flexibility this stage.
Park "Architect" Min-Ho has become the star of his team and continues to rock the opposition on just about every DPS hero he touches. The addition of Choi "ChoiHyoBin" Hyo-Bin has also seemingly strengthened his synergy with the team's overall front to back teamfighting. Both Korean players will have to continue to be at their best if the Shock are to have a shot at defeating the XL this week, as that would greatly ease the hunt of its first Stage playoff berth.
6. London Spitfire
Movement: +3 since last stage
Oh dear, London. This team has all the talent to win any against any team in the world, but continues to crush itself under its own weight. The Spitfire's dedication to dive and lack of meta understanding has left the team's offense looking anemic on numerous occasions as it continues to underperform in Stage 4. Clunky, disorganized dives into Brigitte compositions is not the look the team wants as it moves into the final weeks before the Overwatch League playoffs.
Despite that, London still has its moments of glory and hosts some of the best talent in the Overwatch esports world. Park "Profit" Joon-Yeong has arguably been the best DPS player this year while Choi "Bdosin" Seung-Tae has only played second fiddle to Bang "JJoNak" Seung-Hyeon when it comes to Zenyatta performances. The Spitfire can't be counted out, but more has to be shown if they are to be taken seriously as a contender moving forward.
7. Philadelphia Fusion
Of all the Atlantic Division teams, Boston Uprising continues to draw the most attention, due to its spiral from an undefeated regular season to an 0-6 winless streak. However, two stages ago, the Philadelphia Fusion were battling New York Excelsior for the Stage 2 playoff title. Since then, Philadelphia has sunk into mediocrity. The Fusion aren't bad but have been outpaced in Stages 3 and 4 thanks to improvements from both Los Angeles squads and the San Francisco Shock. This past week, Philadelphia faced one of those teams in the Los Angeles Gladiators and fell short of taking the victory. When it came time to make the final push for a map point, even if the team had some sort of ultimate advantage, Philadelphia appeared to fall apart as a unit. Lee "Carpe" Jae-hyeok was a standout as always, but even with individual highlights, the team hasn't come together the way that it did in Stage 2.
8. Houston Outlaws
Movement: No movement
The Houston Outlaws allayed the fears of the team's fans in Week 3 with victories over the Shanghai Dragons and Florida Mayhem. An important part of being a good team is beating opponents you're expected to beat, and despite Florida's and Shanghai's bottom-of-the-table status, these wins were solid pickups for Houston, proving that the team is mediocre at worst.
Once Houston's opponents are able to switch to more comfortable dive compositions for them -- yes, featuring Tracer -- Houston still seems to struggle, despite having the early jump on the Stage 4 meta. Jeong "Arhan" Won-hyeop had his first starts this past week, and team communication still appeared smooth. Houston has a much stronger schedule this upcoming week against Dallas Fuel and Los Angeles Valiant, which will be the true test of where Houston falls in the overall standings. Season playoffs aren't out of the picture for Houston yet, but qualifying requires a few factors that are out of Houston's control, and Houston needs some surprise quality wins against stronger opponents like the Valiant.
9. Seoul Dynasty
At one point, Seoul Dynasty said that the season was a marathon, not a sprint. That marathon is nearing its end, and Seoul has continued to stumble throughout Stage 3 and into Stage 4, losing the team's once-tight grasp of the Pacific Division first-place spot to the rising Los Angeles teams. The sky has stopped falling, for now. Seoul picked up its first two Stage 4 wins this week against the winless Shanghai Dragons and Florida Mayhem. As previously mentioned with Houston above, these might not be the two most quality wins, but they keep Seoul in season playoff contention. Going forward, Seoul will have to have stronger team play. Putting aside Seoul's lineup substitutions throughout Stage 3, the team has hardly been consistently on the same page. Having Kim "Zunba" Jun-hyeok back in the starting rotation and captain Ryu "Ryujehong" Je-hong returning to his support duties will hopefully lend stability to what has been a volatile starting lineup.
10. Boston Uprising
At this point, a lengthy article could be written about what went wrong for Boston this stage. Yes, it starts with the departure of former coach Park "Crusty" Dae-hee for the San Francisco Shock, but not all of Boston's problems can be blamed on Crusty's absence. Stanislav "Mistakes" Danilov was already adjusting to a different hero pool last stage, even during Boston's 10-0 run since Kwon "Striker" Nam-joo was such a formidable Tracer player -- a key part in Boston's strong dive performances. The DPS shift in Stage 4 has left both Mistakes and Striker in limbo, and this has been exacerbated by the fact that Boston can no longer rely on its strong dive synergy to open space for either player. The Stage 4 map pool isn't doing Boston many favors either. Although Boston seems to have a better handle on the meta with each passing week, the team is still one of the worst performers, but Boston still has the dubious honor of being the best of the three winless teams.
11. Florida Mayhem
Movement: No movement
Next on the winless list is the Florida Mayhem. This past week, Florida Mayhem were without star DPS player Ha "Sayaplayer" Jeong-woo, but Andreas "Logix" Berghmans stepped up in a big way, and the team actually looked more coordinated at times, not less. However, the issue for Florida remains that when push comes to shove, the team is unable to coordinate well enough to reach for that final control point, last-minute payload push or final defensive fight. This is where Florida must improve team communication, but it's also where Florida, like all three of our Stage 4 winless squads, really struggles.
12. Shanghai Dragons
Movement: No movement
The Shanghai Dragons continue on the slow path to 0-40. It's unfair to attribute the first 20 losses to this roster, especially when the current Dragons lineup is more dynamic and still continuing to improve, but the losses are seemingly taking their mental toll. Against Houston, Shanghai's greatest opponent was not the Outlaws but the Shanghai Dragons, and this has been a constant issue since this new lineup was introduced. Shanghai is often slow to adapt in-game, perhaps due to communication. The Dragons' hard work is certainly paying off, as the team does continue to improve alongside standout individual performances like Lu "Diya" Weida's in Week 3, but when it comes to closing out games, any communication advancements the team has made seem to come undone in the final seconds.